Dear Students, Families, Faculty and Staff: Recently the Onondaga County Health Department has reported a notable decline in new COVID infections and hospitalizations across the Central New York region. This positive trend, combined with significantly reduced population density on our…
A Legacy Gift Born of Enduring Love
When Morton Kaish ’49 first spotted Luise Meyers ’46, G’51 on a public ice rink in Syracuse, he was immediately drawn to the young woman he thought was “more beautiful than anyone I’d ever known.” Then, he discovered the beauty of her spirit and her work. They were art students at Syracuse University, working with different mediums in different programs, but they shared a passion for study and the process of creation.
That shared passion is the motivation behind their multifaceted gift to the Syracuse University Art Museum to create the Luise and Morton Kaish Gallery Endowed Fund. This gift to the Forever Orange Campaign will foster interdisciplinary research, name a gallery in the museum that will display selections of their artwork and establish a Fellows program to provide students opportunities to use their work as a basis for original scholarship.
“I envision the gallery as opening a world of infinite possibilities to the art student and the non-artist alike,” says Morton. “The exploration of art can open doors to experiences of unimaginable variety.” Morton and Luise married in 1948, and, with their education as a foundation for growth and inspiration, they travelled the globe and created artwork featured in the world’s most prestigious museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the British Museum.
The pursuit of interdisciplinary knowledge drove both artists. Their daughter, Melissa Kaish Dorfman, recalls being surrounded by scholars, composers, writers and architects who were part of her parents’ social and intellectual lives while she was growing up. That is the sort of environment she and her father envision for the Kaish Fellows and their named gallery. Luise Kaish passed away in 2013.
“The arts must not be siloed,” says Melissa, who grew up in her parents’ studio, with her own easel set up in a corner from the time she was 4 years old. “Multidisciplinary experiences enrich the artist’s world view.” In describing how her parents influenced her as a child, she says, “They helped me listen to the world with my eyes. They encouraged me to learn not just to look, but to see new levels of understanding—how art drew upon science, philosophy, politics, religion, music, nature.”
The Syracuse University Art Museum’s commitment to interdisciplinary research and scholarship resonated with Morton, Luise and Melissa. Featuring 45,000 works from around the globe that date from 3500 B.C.E. to present day, it brings together the campus community for study, research and discussion. “We are so grateful to Morton and Melissa for their deeply meaningful gift,” says Vanja Malloy, museum director and chief curator. “The endowment will provide current and future students the opportunity to undertake original research and experience firsthand the power of art to act as a catalyst that transcends all the usual disciplines and boundaries.”
Morton and Luise’s professors at Syracuse helped them develop both the discipline and the imagination required to create great work. Luise once said of her mentor Professor Ivan Meštrović: “He brought to us in the autumn of his life a quality of spirit, a way of seeing form and light, and a total commitment to hard work.”
Morton’s college education was interrupted by service in World War II, and when he returned to campus, the art department had changed dramatically, with new faculty. “They couldn’t have cared less about the disciplined nature of composition or cast-drawing that originally drew me there,” recalls Morton. “They were interested in color, design, imagination.” This new faculty gave Morton permission to take risks and be courageous, something he later would teach his own students. Arts Magazine called his work: “A fascinating blend of the abstract and the figurative… his command of the subject is nothing less than masterful.”
Syracuse University also gave Luise chances to summon her courage and break new ground as a female sculptor in what was then very much a man’s world, tackling monumental scale and diverse mediums. “She was fearless,” says Morton. “She had tremendous confidence.” Her journey as an artist is detailed in a new publication, “Luise Kaish: An American Art Legacy,” a scholarly resource for diverse disciplines, including philosophy, religion, art history and fine arts.
In 1989, Luise was awarded the Arents Medal, Syracuse’s highest alumni honor. In the same year, in his Commencement speech to graduates of the College of Visual and Performing Arts, Morton noted that the courage to take risks is “at the very center of the creative life, its core and essence.”
The Kaish Endowment is intended to help students pursue their passions courageously, by offering them the kinds of experiences and opportunities that allowed Morton and Luise Kaish to thrive, leaving a legacy for generations to come.
About Syracuse University
Syracuse University is a private research university that advances knowledge across disciplines to drive breakthrough discoveries and breakout leadership. Our collection of 13 schools and colleges with over 200 customizable majors close the gap between education and action, so students can take on the world. In and beyond the classroom, we connect people, perspectives and practices to solve interconnected challenges with interdisciplinary approaches. Together, we’re a powerful community that moves ideas, individuals and impact beyond what’s possible.
About Forever Orange
Orange isn’t just our color. It’s our promise to leave the world better than we found it. Forever Orange: The Campaign for Syracuse University is poised to do just that. Fueled by 150 years of fearless firsts, together we can enhance academic excellence, transform the student experience and expand unique opportunities for learning and growth. Forever Orange endeavors to raise $1.5 billion in philanthropic support, inspire 125,000 individual donors to participate in the campaign, and actively engage one in five alumni in the life of the University. Now is the time to show the world what Orange can do. Visit syracuse.edu/foreverorange to learn more.